Sips: drinking “green” on St. Patrick’s Day

Wine names. Is there a more un-sexy one than “Sustainable White?” I mean, come on. Doesn’t it sound more like a paint color than a wine? And yet, I really did enjoy this $11 California blend, and I’ll tell you about it in a minute. But first, a little background is in order.  

As I’ve observed before, many wineries are jumping on the green bandwagon these days; no doubt it’s one of thParducci 005e hottest trends in winemaking and wine marketing, at least in this country. I point to the American example because in France, as I learned on my visit to the Loire Valley last month, they seem less inclined to wave the green flag to sell their wines, even though organic and biodynamic winemaking has taken off there as well (in fact, in the Loire there is a long history of it). The difference seems to be that the French prefer to let their wines speak for themselves and then to tell you about them if you care to ask. In any event, the 2008 Sustainable White from Mendocino County succeeds because it’s very good wine and, at $11, is a rare California bargain. That said, it’s laudable that the winery is trying mightily to be environmentally correct -- and succeeding .

The winery is Parducci Wine Cellars, owned since 2004 by the  Mendocino Wine Company, whose partners, Paul Dolan and several members of the Thornhill family, have made sustainability the centerpiece of their business. There’s a nice explanation of how they are doing this on the sustainability page of their Web site. I’m assuming that because the wine doesn’t explicitly say so, the grapes are not certified organic, which I wouldn’t expect at this price point.

Parducci’s “Sustainable” line (there is also a red) was created at the request of Whole Foods Market and was sold exclusively at the chain for the first year. The wines are now being sold nationally, with 9,000 cases of each produced. For me, the winner is the white, a blend of mainly chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc with smaller amounts of viognier, muscat caneli and friulano. The most striking thing about it is an unusual layer of smokiness that accents its notes of pear, tropical fruit and citrus. It’s unusually complex for the price and will pair well with a range of foods, including chicken and pork, seafood and risotto with asparagus and shrimp. As for being produced by a sustainable winery? That’s icing on the cake. And the name “Sustainable White?” It’s growing on me. Perhaps I’ll suggest it to the folks at Benjamin Moore, and do let me know what you think of the name. (Wine received as a press sample.)

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